Babolat VS Touch Natural Gut String Review

Babolat VS Touch Natural Gut 16 String
Price: $42.95

Upsides

  • Comfort
  • Feel
  • Power
  • Tension Maintenance

Downsides

  • Price
  • Spin
Video Review

Summary

It's hard to exaggerate the impact Babolat VS Touch has had on the game of tennis. It was launched in 1925, and if you consider the list of iconic tennis players who have used it or the number of historic matches that it has graced, Babolat VS Touch is literally the stuff of legend. The defining features of this string come from its composition. Made of extremely elastic natural fibers, VS Touch is the most comfortable and powerful string we've playtested to date. But it's not just soft and powerful. What truly separates VS Touch is the feel. Unlike strings made from synthetic fibers, VS Touch not only feels wonderfully crisp, but it also somehow manages to stay comfortable and responsive at very high tensions. In addition to its hefty price and the typical fraying common with natural gut, our biggest knock on VS Touch was that it lacked the spin and control we get from a full bed of stiff polyester. This problem can be mitigated by using higher tensions or installing VS Touch in a hybrid, which is the chosen configuration on the pro tour. Ultimately, though, if you're looking for a string with maximum comfort, maximum power and maximum tension maintenance, we think Babolat VS Touch is as good as it gets. Did we mention the feel?

Babolat VS Touch Natural Gut String Scores

Power 100
Spin 74
Comfort 100
Control 74
Feel 96
Playability Duration 95
Durability 72
Overall 96

Power - Score: 100 / Control - Score: 74

Babolat VS Touch is the most powerful string we've tested. In fact, it is the only string (so far) to receive a perfect score for power (100 out of 100). Even more impressive was the control, made possible by the fact that VS Touch can be strung extremely tight without losing its seductive feel or comfort. Andy explained, "For starters, natural gut is THE most powerful string you can use. It injects more energy back into the ball than any other string, so if power is what you're looking for then this is a perfect option for you. On the other hand, the great thing about VS Touch is that you can string it at a really high tension, and it still remains comfortable. I strung a full bed at 58 lbs (10 lbs higher than I usually string a poly), and it still had tons of playability. If you want comfort and control, you can go as high as you want with the tension to get the level of control you need."

Also finding exceptional power and a surprising level of control was Chris. He said, "I got great power from this string even with it strung at 62 lbs. I went with such a high tension because my Babolat Pure Drive Plus is a powerful racquet and I was worried about not finding enough control. However, I think I could have strung it lower, and I'll go with 58 lbs on my next string job. I had great control at 62 lbs -- way more than I thought I'd get, but the launch angle off my strings was noticeably lower than I'm used to with a poly at 46 lbs. For the most part I was able to adjust and aim a little higher for more net clearance. On very aggressive swings I found I could still get my shots to drop inside the lines. Before the test I was worried that those shots would be sailing long due to the powerful nature of natural gut. I continued to be amazed at the control I was finding, especially since I was getting more zip on my shots."

Spin - Score: 74

VS Touch didn't give our duo the kind of spin they get from a full bed of polyester, but they still managed to squeeze decent spin from this string, especially when the strung it at higher tensions. Chris explained, "I missed the big spin I can get from poly strings when I was using a full bed of VS Touch Natural Gut. However, I got more spin than expected. I thought this string was more spin friendly than multifilament string. It grabbed the ball really well. I was surprised by the lack of string movement during my first hit, but as the coating wore off the strings started to get stuck out of position and required regular straightening. Still, spin production remained far better than expected. The high tension also helped in this regard, and I felt it deadened the power enough to let me tap into faster swing speeds, which offered up more spin."

Although he figured out how to get good spin from VS Touch, Andy isn't ready to give up his full bed of polyester. He said. "The one downside of playing with the full bed of VS Touch was its lack of spin potential. Granted, I'm used to playing with a full bed of polyester, so I'm used to getting way more spin out of my stringbed, and the full bed of VS Touch didn't provide that. However, I was finding plenty of spin potential when I used VS Touch in the mains and a poly in the crosses. If you account for the added power by increasing your tension a few pounds you can get the same kind of rotation on the ball that you can get with a full bed of poly. The natural gut slid on the poly crosses well and never got stuck out of position."

Comfort - Score: 100

Let's not mince words. Babolat VS Touch is one of the most comfortable strings ever made. This fact has been confirmed by countless diagnostic tests, including the stiffness tests performed in our own TW String Lab. Granted, Babolat has stiffened it over the years with a host of durability reinforcements and structural modifications, but these things didn't keep us from giving it a perfect score for comfort. Andy was more than a little impressed. He said, "If comfort is what you desire, look no further! Nothing is more comfortable than VS Touch. The full bed of it -- even strung at a high tension -- had such a soft and plush feel I felt like I was slugging the ball with a pillow! The gut also softened up the feel of the stiffer polyester string when I used it in a hybrid setup.

Also loving this string's uniquely high level of comfort was Chris. He said, "The standout feature of this test was the string's comfort. I've always been amazed at the silky smooth ride natural gut brings to every racquet I've tried it in. My Pure Drive Plus felt very comfortable with VS Touch in it, and I'd definitely recommend this string if comfort is of the utmost importance. Even shots hit off center left the stringbed with no harsh vibes or shock. While even the best multifilaments can start to feel stiff at high tensions, VS Touch still felt soft and elastic."

Feel - Score: 96

Pete Sampras strung the 1.22mm and 1.25mm versions of VS Touch in the mid-70 lbs range, and Borg reportedly went all the way up to 80 lbs with the 1.30mm version. If you tried this with polyester your arm would sue for damages. Not so with VS Touch, which can be strung obscenely high without losing its "best of class" responsiveness and seemingly magical feel. Chris helps us understand the undeniable uniqueness of this string's feel. He said, "The feel of this string was sublime. The more the coating wore off the more connected to the ball I felt. After about an hour of play to break it in the feel was top notch , and that sensation lasted for the duration of the test. It was soft, yet somehow crisp feeling at the same time. Only gut gives me a fantastically soft and comfortable feel with absolutely no disconnect from the impact. Soft synthetic strings, in comparison, tend to feel muted, and there's a disconnect from what's going on. With VS Touch my touch and drop shots were on point. I could really feel what I was getting on the ball. I think the amount of feel I found from VS Touch was a big factor in my ability to control such a powerful string."

Andy also appreciated the uniqueness of this string's feel. He said, "VS Touch provides an elastic and extremely responsive feel. While it's incredibly soft, it never seems too mushy or dampened. I felt very connected to the ball as it was leaving my strings. It's really a unique feel -- different from even the most premium or softest multifilament strings. It has a very unique elasticity to it, even at higher tensions."

Playability Duration - Score: 95

A lesser known fact about natural gut is that it holds its tension better than any other string material, especially polyester. The upshot is that VS Touch doesn't die like a poly or get mushy and erratic like its multifilament counterparts. Andy was impressed. He said, "Another strength of the VS Touch was how long the playability lasts. As a full bed, I noticed virtually no change in tension or playability throughout the playtest (a little over a month). In the hybrid, the gut remained tight and responsive, but the poly I used with it lost tension over time. If you don't break strings often and you want power and comfort, this is perfect because of how long the playability lasts."

Although he had some issues with the durability, Chris couldn't argue with how long VS Touch held its feel and playing characteristics. He said, "About two hours into the test I saw some fraying of the gut in several areas of the stringbed. At that point it also started to get stuck out of position more, and seemed like the coating had pretty much worn off in the sweetspot area. However, the string continued to play great. My spin, control and power remained and the feel had improved. It hasn't broken yet, so I'm going to keep hitting it."

Overall - Score: 96

What type of player would you recommend this to?

Chris - "VS Touch will complement any player's game. Big hitters will find it a great way to soften up the response of a stiff poly string by using it as a gut/poly hybrid. Anyone seeking power, comfort, control and feel from the stringbed should find the ultimate in a full set of VS Touch."

Andy - "Well, I realized during this playtest why VS Touch is the king of strings! It works extremely well for experienced players with long, fast strokes who may typically use a full bed of poly but want a boost in comfort and feel (this is why a large number of players on the pro tour use this). It also is a great option for club players who don't restring their racquets that often and want lots of power, comfort and feel. The playability lasts so long that it's perfect for players who leave their strings in their racquets for a long time."

Likes

Chris - "Power, control, spin, fantastic comfort and feel!"

Andy - "Unmatched power, comfort, tension maintenance and feel. I found plenty of control when I increased the tension and plenty of spin when I used it as the mains in a hybrid with a poly cross."

Dislikes

Chris - "It's a very expensive string."

Andy - "Not too much spin potential when I used it in a full bed."

Comparing the string to others they've tried, our testers said:

Chris - "The feel of VS Touch was a tad more muted compared to some others until the coating wore off. I find a more raw feel from Klip and Pacific natural gut right off the stringer. However, I was very happy with the consistent playability of the VS Touch and how well it lasted. It really is exceptional string, but you have to pay a little more to appreciate its qualities."

Andy - "Nothing compares to the feel and playability of natural gut, and VS Touch is the king of gut! If premium comfort, power and feel is what you're looking for, this is it!"

Scores

(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)

Chris' Scores
Power10Feel9.5
Spin7.7Playability Duration9
Comfort10Durability7.3
Control7.8
Overall9.6
Andy's Scores
Power10Feel9.7
Spin7Playability Duration10
Comfort10Durability7
Control7
Overall9.5

Playtester String Setups

Chris:
Playtest Racquet: Babolat Pure Drive Plus
Playtest Tension: 62 lbs.
Typical String: Volkl Cyclone 16

Andy:
Playtest Racquet: Yonex EZONE DR 98
Playtest Tension: 58 lbs.
Typical String: Solinco Hyper-G 17

Tension Diagnostic

Strung @ 55lbs on Tourna 600 ES Computerized Stringing Machine
Initial Stringbed Stiffness: 64 RDC Units
+24 hrs (unplayed) Stiffness: 62 RDC Units